I don’t actually own this book even though you could think that I would because the blurb is right up my alley. Usually I would buy a book like this in an instant. But this copy is just a loan from my mother who got it as a going away present from her teaching assistant. I borrowed it and I intend to give it back. No really, I will. I will. I promise.
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
I’m a little torn on how to rate this book, in what category to put it and how to catalogue it in my very own brain.
It seems to be very crisply parted in three acts. Act 1 where we learn about Alice’s past life on the road, about all the bad luck that seemed to be following them wherever they go, about her new life with Ella’s new husband and his daughter and about Ellery something-something Finch.
I absolutely loved the beginning of the book. I loved the atmosphere, I loved the tone, I loved the pace. I loved how everything was described, how it made me feel. I felt like I should immediately pack my bags to experience New York in the fall, I felt like living and breathing this book. I was enchanted. It set out to be on the list of my favourite reads of 2019.
I liked Alice almost instantly. There was something edgy about her, something lost and angry and still I loved how she just absolutely adored her mother. Pretty much everything about Alice seemed so real, like she was an actual real-life person out there somewhere.
Ella I liked too. She seemed carefree on the one hand but also not and she seemed to love Alice so wholeheartedly, no matter her outbursts, no matter what bad things happened around them. She seemed also driven somehow, worried and I was wondering what she knew.
Finch was a great character too. He seemed straight-forward but the more I got on with the book the more I liked him and the more I didn’t trust his motives. I couldn’t really tell if he was genuine or not.
Everybody seemed seemd to have a secret, come to think of it. Everybody seemed to keep something from Alice, seemed to have a certain directive. It added to my paranoia and to the mysterious air of the book. It also annoyed me a little.
Act 2 was thrilling and dark-ish, full of mystery. Ella disappeared and Alice goes looking for her with the help of Finch. Clues are to be followed, weird stuff got even weirder. It was like a fog rising in the evening when all the streetlamps are lighting up, if you know what I mean. Like whisps of smoke. There was a danger, there was a mystery I could feel almost roll of the page. I was totally hooked.
The book kept me at the edge of my seat, never quite willing to letting me relax. I still enjoyed myself immensely, never felt strained, just deeply immersed.
Even though a lot of fantastic elements started to creep in, everything still seemed real and urgent.
Act 3 was where the book disappointed me. It seemed to lose quality and suddenly wasn’t as gripping anymore. Everything happened too fast or just started to feel shallow. The depth started to go missing. It was still interesting and unique but somehow I felt like it just wasn’t as good anymore. At the end I just wanted to get it over with. That’s actually quite sad. (I also kinda felt robbed of the ending of “Alice-times-three”. Even though it’s implied what’s happening, I still kinda wanna read it.)
The whole book has this autumnal, dark fairytale feeling to it. There is a mystery to be solved – well, I could actually pretty soon guess what that was but still – there is something creeping out there. It’s not really scary, it just has this undercurrent I really liked.
The writing style was good and fluid, the characters interesting. There were some bookish and popculture references that delighted me but also made me wonder if it was purely fanservice. But nevermind.
All in all I enjoyed this read, even though the later part was kinda disappointing. I still really look forward to the sequel and will definitely read that.
The Hazel Wood| Melissa Albert| Hardcover| Hazel Wood #1